The Media Freedom Rapid Response organization has expressed “deep concern” about the future impartiality and independence of the Albanian Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA), following the election of Armela Krasniqi as its chairwoman.
The press release notes that the government elected her to the head of the media regulator without opposition lawmakers in parliament. The Opposition resigned their mandates from parliament voluntarily in 2019, therefore being unable to counter a range of decisions and laws put forward by the Socialist Party majority since.
“Our organizations have serious concerns over the impartiality of the new chairwoman, who is a close associate of Prime Minister Edi Rama and previously worked as his director of communications between 2013 and 2017. Krasniqi has worked for the Socialist Party most of her life and currently heads the state news agency, which has faced accusations of political bias,” the statement reads.
They note that under Albanian law, AMA is required to be politically independent.
“Impartial leadership of such regulatory bodies is vital for upholding public trust in a country’s media landscape and strengthening professional standards. Media freedom is deeply connected to regulatory responsibility, as powers to sanction alleged breaches of media law and decide on the allocation of broadcast licenses must be applied fairly.”
They said that the appointment of a partisan figure with “long-standing links to the ruling party” and during the absence of the Opposition in parliament risks seriously undermining the credibility and legitimacy of AMA and the broader media ecosystem.
The organizations also highlighted how important the role of AMA is considering the controversial “anti-defamation package” that is still pending in parliament. If passed, AMA would have the power to impose “disproportionate sanctions and fines on media outlets”. They reiterated their opposition to the plans.
The PS ignored calls from the EU and OSCE to postpone the appointment until the new parliament convenes in September. MMFR said, “this should be of concern to the EU as it assesses Albania’s accession to the bloc.”
“The decision to appoint a politically connected figure contradicts the recommendations set out by the Venice Commission for strengthening the AMA’s independence. Instead of adopting these recommendations and creating greater safeguards, the government has taken a step backward and exacerbated the issue further.”
They urged the government to implement the VC recommendations while reiterating severe concerns about what it will mean for media freedom in Albania if it’s passed in its current form.
“Our organizations retain serious concerns about the effect this will have on media freedom in Albania if passed in its current form. Greater communication is required from the government about the status of the proposed amendments. Until such clarity is provided, the package will continue to have a chilling effect on the media.”
They concluded that the second stage of the appointment process, where members of the board will be elected, must prioritize professional expertise and independence.
“Our organizations will continue to monitor the solution closely,” they said.
The statement was signed by ARTICLE 19, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, the European Federation of Journalists, the International Press Institute, and Osserrvatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa.